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TEA Party: Enough Already!

The great "shellacking" of Congress was the long-awaited repudiation of Progressive policies under Obama. Yet Compromise remains a must for governance.

I supported the TEA Party call for cutting spending, limiting government, and reinstating Constitutional rule. Following the last election, this caucus' influence has drifted from the pragmatic to the problematic. In the last two election cycles, TEA Party activists have stifled successful primary candidates for the general election, and shoo-in Republicans lost. The GOP needs to link the Tea Party and the Establishment elements in this country.

We have seen the results of limited government libertarianism pushed to its limits: Barry Goldwater in 1964. In response to the majority of libertarians, the argument for less government must be replaced with more of something else. Goldwater's signature quote defines the trasformation of reform into self-righteous indignation:

"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"

"Extremism" is a violation of liberty. "The pursuit of justice" can never be "moderate," nor should we center our lives on attaining justice at all costs. The final rendering in a case or a conflict cannot be the defining future of man.

A Republican representative government cannot be based on extreme approaches to anything, nor justice as a means or an end for everything. Just telling people that the government is not supposed to do anything creates more fear than regard. In their defense, the TEA Party movement has not advocated anarchy.

However, like Progressives of the early 20th Century and Libertarians of the '64 Goldwater variety, the acceptance of "imperfect but better" is eluding our national discourse. For Progressives, the state would adjudicate everything, a concrete version of Rousseau's "General Will." Libertarians want government removed entirely so that men and women can be led from within by their own will. The TEA Party has focused on cutting spending, but the proper vision and vitality of this country cannot be ignored or reduced to "let's go back," because Americans were forced to pay into entitlement programs, and they are entitled at least to get back what was paid in.

Goldwater lost by the largest margin for a Republican Presidential candidate in U.S. History. Romney's loss was not nearly as bad, but it was egged on by this notion by cut, cut, cut from conservative elements in the country. There is no cutting outright unless there is something to replace it. Life is more than fighting for one's rights, and the alarmism which sponsors populist vitriol to make a point vitiates at the same time.

I respect the TEA Party's respect for the Constitution and Limited Government. But just as Reagan's rhetoric about "Government is the Problem" could not excuse him from working within government, so too shouting "Taxed Enough Already" will not get the message through without accepting that even in the most secure and respected of stances on issues, compromise must play a part.

The primary challenges over the past two cycles have kicked out moderates or liberal Republicans who would have won. Granted, moderate Republicans like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe favored spending, though not as much as the Democrats. Snowe worked with two other Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee (Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi) and three other Democrats to come up with something. The comity on that committee is sorely needed yet sorely lacking in Washington today. She also voted against Obamacare, a much-needed vote to block the rise of the state.

Our leaders must shrink the government, but not the citizenry. Our government must respect the Constitution, but the Constitution was put in place to help form a "more perfect union", not foster private, uncaring disunity. Government is instituted to protect our rights. The proliferation of rights by judicial, administrative, or legislative fiat is wrong, but the right to organize, to practice one's faith, to express one's opinion, to pursue happiness: those rights cannot be removed, and our government needs to protect them. As for "Big Government" or "Government Helping People", let the states and the cities do that job: they do it, and they do it better.

The TEA Party made their points in 2010, and now they have to allow their leaders to govern. The libertarian-progressive pursuit of the perfect or ideal candidate will nevercome. A minimal tax increase with real spending cuts is the best compromise for government in the near future. Only then if Democrats rebuff, then Republicans should no longer deal.

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Arthur Christopher Schaper January 03, 2013 at 09:37 PM
There would never have been a "Tea Party" if the GOP Establishment had lived up to the principles written on the Republican Party Platform. On another note. . . President Richard Nixon was reaching out to Hispanic voters during the 1972 campaign, and before that Governor Ronald Reagan reached out to Hispanics to take back California from the regressive Progressivism of Edmund G. "Pat" Brown. Another Reagan needs to take on or take down Brown Jr.
vicki bliss January 04, 2013 at 05:34 PM
There has not been a decent Republican President since Eisenhower. The Tea Party fails to acknowledge that all Americans don't think they way they do...not in politics and not in religion, and religion should be kept out of politics...period! Their cry for "fiscal responsibility" is a thin disguise for putting the brakes on progress, limiting personal freedom for all Americans (i.e., "equality") and an endorsement that the rich shouldn't have to pay taxes. We all benefit from taxes...infrastructure, for example...a military for example, etc. The GOP has suffered a mortal wound thanks to the Tea Party...the GOP may go the way of the Whigs and take the Tea Party with them. America is moving forward, not backwards.
Greg Davidson January 04, 2013 at 06:25 PM
I appreciate the author's step away from extremism, but he also demonstrates the detachment from reality that makes the Tea Party movement so destructive. (1) His assertion that "For Progressives, the state would adjudicate everything" is wrong regarding progressives from Teddy Roosevelt through Barack Obama (it was Republican President Richard Nixon who came closest to Mr. Schaper's claim, by imposing wage and price controls on much of the economy in the 1970's, and no one called Nixon a "progressive" at the time). (2) His assertion regarding the "TEA Party's respect for the Constitution" is inconsistent with the Tea Party efforts to force a default on government debt. Section 4 of the 13 Amendment of the Constitution states "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned". All US debt has been generated due to expenditures which have been authorized by law. (3) If the "Taxed Enough Already" TEA Party were sincerely concerned about the level of taxation, then they would have welcomed the Obama stimulus in 2009 as one of the largest tax reductions in US history. The fact that they have ignored a policy move that was in direct alignment with their stated goals indicates that they care less about policy than about re-branding the conservative opposition to Barack Obama and the Democrats.
Greg Davidson January 04, 2013 at 06:54 PM
Finally, it is unclear what was meant by the assertion that: 'The great "shellacking" of Congress was the long-awaited repudiation of Progressive policies under Obama". The 2010 election was shaped by much lower voter turn-out than 2008 and 2012, unprecedented increases in Corporate funding for Republican candidates, as well as an entirely manufactured and xenophobic "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy. The one thing that is clear from the 2012 election is that the majority of voters chose Democrats and their progressive policies for the Presidency (Obama is one of only five Presidents in US history to be elected twice with 51% or more of the vote), the Senate, and even for the House of Representatives. In the House, Democrats got 1.4 million more votes than did the Republicans, but gerrymandering allows those Republicans (who received only 48% of the votes) to continue to threaten driving the economy into collapse in order to argue for policies that the majority of voters have rejected. I endorse Mr Schaper's call for those Republicans to move away from extremism, but the credibility of his overall argument would be enhanced if he could avoid some of his unsubstantiated and inaccurate assertions.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 04:08 PM
$16 trillion in debt. 43 million on foodstamps, 7.8% official unemployment -- (only because another 7.8% have given up looking for work. Fiscal responsibility is progress. People work, save, invest, and grow. "Rich pay fair share" is a thinly veiled expansion of taxes on all. Increased sales tax will fund overladen pensions and benefits in public schools, not the students learning. The Democrats have not had a decent President since Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 ---- 1893-1897) -- His fiscal conservatism would make him a Republican today. No, Vicki, President Obama's policies are not moving this country forward. How can you not see that? Who is sharing extremist views, then?
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 04:14 PM
1. Nixon made some bad choices -- EPA, War on Drugs, price controls. He also tried to impound spending, that was a good thing. No more Vietnam. He recognized the decline of law and order and did something about it. Nixon was not perfect (No President is) Teddy Roosevelt was in the hands of Progressive puritanical interests who wanted to micromanage everything, including corporations, when in reality their very laws protected Big Business at the expense of competitors. Woodrow Wilson, another progressive, instituted censorship and locked people up for protesting WWI -- even George W. Bush did not lock people up for opposing Iraq.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 04:18 PM
2. The Constitution requires a budget, yet the US Senate has not passed one in four years, while the House passed two budgets last year. If threatening a default is the only way get spend-thrift legislators' attention, then so be it. For our government to spend money that we do not have on entitlements that are not properly funded is a disgraceful disregard of Act. 1 Sect 8, which never listed Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or many of these financial outlays in the first place. The states can handle those programs better. Clinton pushed welfare to the states, and people broke free of poverty and back to work. Please Read Amendments Nine and Ten in your spare time, where aside from the enumerated powers listed in the Constitution, all other rights are retained by the states and the people. Of course, progressives are hostile to the Constitution because the Document embeds essential limits on the federal government.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 04:27 PM
Fewer people voted for Barack Obama, and a greater number of voters stayed home. They liked neither Obama nor Romney. The problem is not the party nor the platform, but the person who was running. Romney did not even really want to be President. He was not my first or even my second choice. Progressive policies are regressive. High taxes bring low economic growth, high unemployment, more businesses leaving the state. Look at CA now compared to thirty or even forty years ago. I would like to see Democratic Party leaders move away from extremisms, too, like spending money that we do not have. "Democrat" Thomas Jefferson vigorously opposed damning future generations with debt. Democrats give immigrants piece meal reforms (non-enforcement of immigration laws, for example), only to use them for votes then discard them so that they cannot choose the schools they enroll in or worship as they see fit or join in the Great Experiment of individual liberty, limited government, and private enterprise which makes this country way better than their home countries. Cutting spending and limiting government are not extreme positions.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 04:27 PM
3. "They would have welcomed the Obama stimulus in 2009 as one of the largest tax reductions in US history." Your statement begs the question and ignores the truth. The very name "stimulus" is hollow propaganda at best, since nothing was stimulated, accept monies sent to non-existent districts or salary increases to government workers. Businesses continued to fail, people still look for work. No stimulus there. There is no credible argument that deficit-spending improves economic growth, but it explodes the deficits, increases inflations, and makes borrowing more expensive. Your logic is flawed, sir.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 04:30 PM
"Religion should be kept out of politics...period" I agree, but this notion that TEA Party interests wanted to bring religion into politics is unproven, unsubstantiated, and unintelligent. To claim that the current President's policies are moving this country forward betrays a blind faith rivaled only by the notion that taxing rich people will solve this country's fiscal problems. Please keep your "religion" out of politics.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Thanks for writing, everyone!
Greg Davidson January 05, 2013 at 05:21 PM
I agree with your criticism of Woodrow Wilson - a bad President in many ways. But your blanket assertion about progressives remains false. Can you please back up your assertion that the Constitution requires a budget in a way that has not been satisfied by legislative action over the past years? You leap to the world of whole-hearted fiction when you assert that "There is no credible argument that deficit-spending improves economic growth". In fact, there is nothing in Conservative economics that can explain the economic collapse of 2008 (read Alan Greenspan's testimony to Congress 10/23/2008). There are economic theories that are consistent with actual events, and deficit spending is beneficial under certain conditions in those theories.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 06:31 PM
"But your blanket assertion about progressives remains false." Progressivism at its core asserts that man's nature is malleable over time, rather than constant. Man has a frail nature at inception. "If men were angels," but they are not. Power must be divided no centralized. The Framers rejected government as the means and end of individual liberty. Progressive policies do not honor that fallen aspects of man's nature, but assume that man can be perfected. These characteristics may seem extreme, but the progressive thinkers, from Horace Mann to Thomas Dewey to Woodrow Wilson to Barack Obama and Henry Waxman, espouse these failed views. Progressives like Oliver Wendel Holmes Jr. and Keynes and even Paul Krugman of the New York Times believe that expanded government power can make institutions better, can make people better. This assertion is false. Some verities in this world cannot change, like supply and demand, or the limitations to the pursuits of justice or eradication of poverty. Progressives want to improve "this world", an assumption denoted in Thomas Paine's "We have it within ourselves to make the world anew". This assumption is both false and dangerous. The French Revolution was an extreme example of this notion put to practice.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 06:40 PM
"Can you please back up your assertion that the Constitution requires a budget in a way that has not been satisfied by legislative action over the past years?" The federal government is outlaying funds which it never had the authority to spend. Article 1 Section 8 spells out the powers of Congress, including the first powers: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; "To pay debts" to pay debts -- and the federal government keeps borrowing and not paying back the debt. "General welfare" does not mean subsidies for poverty, health insurance, or handouts to Big Business, Big Labor, or Big Government. Here's Amendment Nine: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Just because the rights of the people and the sates are not written in the Constitution does not mean that they do not have those rights. Then Amendment Ten: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." If the power is not given to the federal government, it belongs to the states or the people. The federal government is doing too much, and thus spending too much.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 06:47 PM
"There is nothing in Conservative economics that can explain the economic collapse of 2008 (read Alan Greenspan's testimony to Congress 10/23/2008)." Allen Greenspan went along with the low interest rate, high inflation spending spree. Not a good example for "conservative." All that easy credit and the push for homeownership diverted funds to housing. The tipping point of wealth based on debt and one commodity eventually reached a point where the cost of borrowing to purchase something -- in the last decade a house -- was too great, so the prices started falling. The debt which people had accrued still weighed on them, yet the houses which they planned to "flip" ended up under water. This boom-bust took place in the 1920s and the 1990s with the dot.coms. This boom and bust cycle was described at length by the Austrian economists. The Austrian economists, from Boehm-Bawerk to Ludwig von Mises to Murray Rothbard all outlined, described, and analyzed the economic bubbles from the Panic of 1819, the Great Depression, and the Great Recession. They also provided explanations about the pursuance of policies inimical to free markets by businessmen themselves: they know who markets work, and they take advantage of market distortions. Greenspan said "I don't know" because he wanted to save face, since he pursued such reckless policies in the first place as FED chairman.
Greg Davidson January 05, 2013 at 10:50 PM
I disagree with your understanding of economics. Austrian economics violates the first rule of empirical science - you have to take on faith certain premises, and then you develop conclusions accordingly, regardless of factual data in the real world. Seriously, that's what the Austrian economics term praxeology means - it is a faith-based philosophy, and while everyone is entitled to their faith, we should not govern our country based on the faith of one particular group. In 2008, every major investment bank in the private sector made disastrous, sub-optimal decisions, which led to the collapse and the destruction of 5 million jobs. According to Austrian economic theory, such an outcome is impossible - even if one private sector firm made a mistake, the rest of the industry would act rationally and thrive based on the mistakes of others. And it was in regard to this industry-wide failure of the free market that Greenspan testified that conservative economic theory had a fundamental flaw. (By the way, attempting to blame this on Freddie and Fannie is both invalid and also irrelevant, because according to free market economic theory, no matter what Freddie and Fannie and the rest of the mortgage industry did, the investment banking industry would still have survived without a collapse)
Greg Davidson January 05, 2013 at 10:55 PM
When you invent a strawman view of what a "Progressive" believes, you are doing nothing more than what Clint Eastwood did when he debated an empty chair - you are creating a fantasy that is not representative of the real world. At the same time, your rhetoric is so extreme that I don't believe that even you would agree with its implications. If you do not believe that "expanded government power can make institutions better", then why aren't countries with the lest government power (such as Somalia) the places with best institutions. One of the real harms that Tea Party thinking does to American public discourse is mis-representing valid concerns with commentary that is so extreme and inaccurate that it silences more legitimate application of conservative thinking.
Greg Davidson January 05, 2013 at 10:58 PM
Two questions to this (1) Do you reject the accomplishments of the United States that have been achieved over many years in defiance of your interpretation of the Constitution? (2) Do you regularly support an increase in the size of state government commensurate with your argument that power should be moved from the federal level to the state level?
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 11:13 PM
Faith does not mean "not true", it merely means "I do not see it immediately." Faith speaks to accepting given realities which cannot be proven to our limited senses beforehand. Empirical Science, if you permit, begins with faith, that men and women can engage in rational, scientific discourse and discern conclusions from premises and hypotheses. Philospoher David Hume, himself an atheistic skeptic, acknowledged that our morals, our values, our customs are not the product of our reason. Friedrich Hayek argued convincingly that our reason, our intellectual faculties, are a product of cutlural and tradition. One man's intellect cannot create a sustained language.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 11:14 PM
Again refuting the final primacy of reason, as your arguments suggest, consider: "You cannot make a pencil." No one person can, yet pencils galore are manufactured with distinct resources from diverse sources and distributed through various denizens to local distributors. This process exceeds the processes of one man's intellect, yet it happens. I accept it by faith, not because it it not true, but because my reason alone cannot comprehend these complex, marvelous, processes.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 11:15 PM
"According to Austrian economic theory, such an outcome is impossible - even if one private sector firm made a mistake, the rest of the industry would act rationally and thrive based on the mistakes of others." Murray Rothbard emphasized, as I had shared, that bankers and businesses and bureaucrats will engage in irrational decisions, at least according to economic theories and free market wisdom, in order to ensure and enhance their private gain.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 11:16 PM
"(1) Do you reject the accomplishments of the United States that have been achieved over many years in defiance of your interpretation of the Constitution?" Please specify three accomplishments.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 11:18 PM
"(2) Do you regularly support an increase in the size of state government commensurate with your argument that power should be moved from the federal level to the state level?" Government shifted from federal government to the states would automatically diminish government spending. Block grants will cut down on the waste, fraud, and mismanagement. This reform should engage both liberals and conservatives. It's best to keep public spending as locally as possible. That way, We the People can keep a close eye on how the money is spend and hold the spending city representatives accountable.
Greg Davidson January 05, 2013 at 11:42 PM
Faith doesn't mean "not true", but it also doesn't mean "true". If an advocate for a certain philosophy values faith over truth, then he will consider it morally preferable to use dishonest tactics in a public discussion that to acknowledge valid criticisms of his faith-based philosophy. Mr Schaper, I will not pre-judge you - so could you please tell me what do you value the most highly: maintaining faith in your philosophy, or pursuit of truth (and I understand that your position is that both are in alignment, but if ever there were a conflict, which would you value more highly)? In a free country, you have a right to either choice, but the value of public debate varys based on your choice.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 05, 2013 at 11:43 PM
"When you invent a strawman view of what a "Progressive" believes" "your rhetoric is so extreme" "you are creating a fantasy that is not representative of the real world." "commentary that is so extreme and inaccurate" Your use of "extreme" is extreme. I envision a field of strawmen going up in flames. William F. Buckley could not put it out, nor will I. I keep reading the term "You, you, you" I do not see the value in your getting personal. But since you mentioned Clint Eastwood: "Go ahead, make my day!" Take it easy, Greg!
Greg Davidson January 05, 2013 at 11:47 PM
There's a perfectly good conservative argument from The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith as to how market signals enable the coordination of many providers to come together and efficiently develop an integrated product such as a pencil. And there is abundant empirical data on how this actually works in the real world. No need for faith.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 06, 2013 at 02:16 AM
I must also add -- my biggest concern with the TEA Party is the primary fights which have ended up turning reliably Republican seats to the Democrats. Mike Castle of Delaware would have been better than Chris Coons. Two other more qualified candidates would have won against Harry Reid in 2010. The Primary process needs some vetting. The conservative who is the most electable is much needed. I do not disparage the push for a balanced budget and cutting spending. The federal government cannot spend money beyond what the government takes in. This chronic cry of "extermism" ignores that our government is running up trillion dollar deficits annually. This is both extreme and immoral. It is also immoral to ignore this glaring problem with "TEA Party" Bashing, Bush-Bashing, or even Obama-Bashing.
Greg Davidson January 06, 2013 at 04:37 AM
I want to discuss the best ways to address problems facing our country - but to do so, it is necessary for our thinking to be grounded in reality. And so when conservatives make profoundly false assertions (such as "The federal government cannot spend money beyond what the government takes in" - something that the federal government has done every year for the last 5 decades except in the last two years of the Clinton Administration) the thinking that proceeds from such a faulty basis is a poor guide for policy. We agree that over the long term, annual deficits of $1T will be harmful. The appropriate question regards the best approach to ending the current situation. Here is where there is a difference between conservative/Austrian economics and what Keynes wrote. For Keynes, firms decide how much to produce based on their expectations of future sales. If economic growth is slowing, companies will believe that business will be bad in the next quarter, so they will cut expenses (by firing workers and putting off investments that could expand capacity). Unfortunately, those fired workers buy less, so more companies cut back, and the situation snowballs. Market behavior leads to a downward spiral, and under those circumstances, government stimulus changes the calculations of entrepreneurs. This is more than theory - in March 2009 Obama urged the EU nations to try stimulus. They chose austerity policies instead - and have averaged much worse economic growth than the US
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 06, 2013 at 09:11 PM
About the "failure" of austerity measures. The EU also doubled down on bailouts and spending and tax increases. Austerity must be nothing but, cutting spending is essential, with lower tax rates, which will bring in more revenues. The crisis of representative democracy is breaking out across the world. People want a lavish welfare state, but they do not want to pay for it. The "pay for it" is coming due. I really wonder if popular government can enact the necessary spending cuts and entitlement reforms which are needed. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R-Michigan) dispatched emergency managers to troubled cities and school districts to make the fiscally necessary but politically unpopular cuts. The first emergency manager law was repealed by proposition, but Snyder enacted another one.

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